Essential Energy is a NSW Government-owned Organisation which operates the electricity poles and wires across 95% of NSW.
Essential Energy employees over 3000 employees across the State mostly in rural and regional NSW areas where unemployment is high and the drought is having devastating affects across many communities.
Many people employed by Essential Energy have been with the organisation for a very long time and the organisation employs many families with husbands and wives, fathers and son etc. also working within Essential Energy across the Network.
The prospect of finding alternative employment is daunting for many and many families employed by Essential are worried that the impacts might affect them at the same time which would mean both breadwinners being made redundant at once.
Yet despite this, Essential Energy announced last month that up to 500 jobs will go over the next Australian Energy Regulatory Period which ends in 2024. 187 of these positions will go by September 2019. Essential Energy blamed the AER for the decision saying that it was forced to reduce its Capex and Opex and that the only way to further reduce this was to cut jobs.
The United Services Union believes that there are other variable options open within the organisation to reduce costs as opposed to further slashing jobs however Essential Energy are continuing with the job cuts despite our calls to look at other options.
Last month the combined Energy Unions took Essential Energy to the Fair Work Commission amid concerns that Essential Energy was failing in its obligations in accordance with the Enterprise Agreement and the Fair Work Act to properly consult with its workforce and allow the opportunity for employees and their unions to be able to put forward ways to avert or mitigate effects of redundancy. Essential Energy eventually complied with the Unions’ argument and allowed for a proper consultation period however employees have found that they must submit their consultation submissions to their Line Managers – the very people who have made the decision that their jobs are going and there is no independent point of contact for where the submissions could go to be assessed.
We believe that this has only proved that this process serves nothing more than paying lip service to the consultation process as the organisation has already made up its mind who is going and who is staying.
Employees have also found that there have been numerous instances where mixed messages have gone out with employees being told one thing and other employees being told something completely different. One instance of this was when some employees and the unions were told that affected employees could take time off work without the requirement of a doctor’s certificate if they were feeling overwhelmed by the decision, however other employees were told they must produce a doctor’s certificate. This issue went on for a period of two weeks despite repeated calls by the USU to put out communication to clarify the issue. This practice serves nothing more than to add further stress and anxiety on employees unnecessarily.
The Stress and anxiety this announcement has caused employees in already hard in these extreme economic times.
These employees had already endured massive job cuts over the past 4 years when the workforce was slashed by over 2000 jobs and just when the employees thought that the hard times were over, this happens again!
The United Services Union continues to call for talks with the State Government to find alternative measures for this sector rather than massive job cuts which not only cause financial stress for effected employees but also impact services to NSW Energy Customers.
The United Services Union also has concerns regarding the current system that allows the Australian Energy Regulator to impose arbitrary and unsustainable budget cuts with no regards to impacts on employees and services to NSW Energy Customers. We believe that this process must be immediately reviewed as the Network only serves 34% of a customer’s bill with the rest being made up by the retail provider. Why, if this is the case, is the Network being so arbitrarily regulated?
United Services Union General Secretary Graeme Kelly OAM said it was not too late to find alternatives to save these rural and regional jobs but it would require the full support of the NSW State Government.
“Essential Energy remains 100% publicly owned so the NSW Government has the power to force Management to find alternative savings measures that don’t require slashing jobs in regional communities,” Mr Kelly said.
“We believe there are alternatives to these job cuts. There are options that can deliver cost savings which in turn protects rural and regional employment however this requires firm political action, not just words”.
The United Services Union will continue with our calls for urgent talks with the Government on this issue.